Toyota Matrix 2009-2014: engine, fuel economy, problems, photos

Updated: October 15, 2019

The Matrix is one of the top choices for a practical small wagon on the used car market. Riding on the Corolla platform, the Matrix offers 49.4 cu. ft of flat cargo space covered with durable plastic.

2012 Toyota Matrix interior
2012 Toyota Matrix interior.

It's also one of the few small cars suitable for tall drivers, as it has plenty of headroom. The upright driving position makes the entry and exit easy and provides excellent visibility. On top of that, the Matrix is very fuel efficient.

Lineup: In the U.S., the 2009 Matrix came in Base, S and XRS trim levels, although for 2012, only the base L and sporty S models were available. In Canada, the lineup consisted of the Base, XR, XRS and AWD models. The 2013 was the last model year available in the U.S. In Canada, the Matrix was discontinued after 2014.

2012 Toyota Matrix rear seats folded
2012 Toyota Matrix rear seats folded

Engine: The Matrix comes with a 132-hp 1.8L (same as in the Corolla) or optional 158-hp 2.4L 4-cylinder engine. Both are low-maintenance, twin-cam motors. Both engines use a maintenance-free timing chain; there is no timing belt. The 1.8L engine is a more reliable choice in our view.

Fuel economy The EPA rates the 2013 1.8L Matrix auto at 26 mpg (9.0 L/100 km) city and 32 mpg highway (7.4 L/100 km). On a long trip, the 1.8L Matrix is expected to go up to 409 miles (658 km) between fill-ups.

Handling and ride: The Matrix handles well, with responsive steering and good road feel. The ride is comfortable and fairly quiet, but you will hear some engine noise on acceleration. The 1.8L engine is peppy for daily driving, but feels a bit underpowered with full load.

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Mechanical: Transmission choices include a five-speed manual or four- or five-speed automatic. An all-wheel drive is only available with a 2.4L engine and an automatic transmission. Antilock brakes are standard.

Toyota Matrix 1.8L engine
2012 Toyota Matrix 1.8L engine larger view

Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control were optional in earlier models; standard from 2010 in the U.S. and from 2011 in Canada.

Safety: In the NHTSA frontal crash tests, the 2009 and 2010 Toyota Matrix received five out of five stars for both the driver and the front passenger. In the side-impact crash tests, the 2009-2010 Matrix scored five stars for the driver and four stars for the rear passenger. The 2011+ models were not rated.

Common problems: The water pump failure is reported often. The cost to replace varies from $380 to $540. Symptoms of a bad water pump include pinkish fluid leaks on the passenger side of the engine compartment.

2012 Toyota Matrix
2012 Toyota Matrix. Click for a larger photo

Sometimes a bad water pump can become noisy. An updated part is available from Toyota.
Some 2009 models may exhibit a brief rattle/knock from the engine compartment when started cold. The repair involves replacing the camshaft timing gear assembly with updated parts. Minor oil leaks from the timing cover are reported often. Rear brakes can wear prematurely if not serviced regularly.

Pros: Reliability, plenty of headroom, up-right driving position, flat cargo space, fuel economy (for the 1.8L model), easy handling, comfortable ride.

Cons: Interior materials and quality could be better, sensitive to strong side winds, thick rear pillars create blind spots in the back, the A/C is not very strong.

Overall: The Matrix is a practical fuel efficient low-maintenance wagon. It's a good vehicle to take on a long trip. With addition of a roof rack and some special gear, the Matrix can transport two kayaks or a canoe.

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The 1.8L engine is a better choice in our view, as it's good on gas and can last for over 200K miles with good maintenance. As of October 2019, Consumer Reports rates only the 2010 Toyota Matrix as Recommended. Newer model years were not rated.

Similar cars: Pontiac Vibe is the mechanical twin of the Matrix, but it was discontinued after 2010. Honda Fit is smaller and has firmer ride, but otherwise practical and reliable too. Toyota Corolla is pretty much the same car in a more refined sedan form. Mazda 3 is also reliable; it offers sportier handling and more upscale interior, but the interior space is tight. Honda Civic is more sporty and has better highway mileage, but seats are low to the floor making the entry and exit more difficult. Nissan Versa and Sentra are less reliable. Dodge Caliber is a bit bigger but also less reliable.

Maintenance: The 2012 Toyota Matrix owner's manual recommends using 0W-20 oil, which is synthetic. For the 1.8L 2ZR-FE engine, the U.S. Toyota Matrix Warranty & Maintenance Guide recommends changing oil every 10,000 miles for normal driving conditions and 5,000 for special operating conditions (repeated short trips, excessive idling, etc.) if 0W-20 oil is used. Our advice: changing the oil every 5,000 miles will help keeping your engine in good shape longer. The Canadian maintenance schedule recommends changing oil every 8,000 km. Other common maintenance items include: tire rotation at every oil change, air and cabin filters every 20-30K miles, transmission fluid change every 40-50K miles, spark plugs every 80-120K miles. For details, check the full maintenance schedule or download an owner's manual at: Toyota Owners

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Toyota Matrix specifications (2012 model)

Dimensions:
Overall length:
Overall width:
Overall height:
Wheelbase:
Headroom: (w/o sunroof)
Front:
Rear:
Legroom:
Front:
Rear:

171.9 in. (4,365 mm)
69.5 in. (1,765 mm)
61.0 in. (1,550 mm)
102.4 in. (2,600 mm)

40.5 in.
39.3 in.

41.6 in.
36.2 in.
Seating Capacity:

5

Cargo volume:

Behind Front seat: 49.4 cu. ft (1,400 liters)
Behind Rear seat: 19.8 cu. ft (560 liters)
Engine:
L (US), Base (Canada):



S (US), AWD and XRS (Canada):

1.8-liter, 4-Cylinder, DOHC, 16-Valve, Dual VVT-i
132 hp @ 6,000 rpm
128 lb. ft. @ 4,400 rpm

2.4-liter, 4-Cylinder, DOHC, 16-Valve, VVT-i
158 hp @ 6,000 rpm
162 lb. ft. @ 4,000 rpm

EPA Fuel Economy (US mpg, L/100 km):
1.8L Manual:


1.8L Automatic:


2.4L Manual:


2.4L Automatic:


2.4L Automatic AWD:

city: 26 mpg (9.0 L/100 km)
hwy: 32 mpg (7.4 L/100 km)

city: 25 mpg (9.4 L/100 km)
hwy: 32 mpg (7.4 L/100 km)

city: 21 mpg (11.2 L/100 km)
hwy: 28 mpg (8.4 L/100 km)

city: 21 mpg (11.2 L/100 km)
hwy: 29 mpg (8.1 L/100 km)

city: 20 mpg (11.8 L/100 km)
hwy: 26 mpg (9.0 L/100 km)

Recommended Fuel: 87 Unleaded

Fuel Tank Capacity:

11.0 US gal (50.0 liters)

Engine Oil Capacity:
Drain and refill with filter
1.8L 2ZR-FE engine:
2.4L 2AZ-FE engine:


4.4 US qt. (4.2 L)
4.0 US qt. (3.8 L)

By Samarins.com Staff